YUMBE. Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) with support from Germany Red Cross has supported beneficiaries under integrated food, livelihood, WASH, and household energy (INFLWAHE) project in Bidibidi refugee settlement with agricultural inputs using voucher assistance modality.

This was done through a seed fair organized by URCS at Ariwa reception centre on Friday where the selected seed vendors were allowed to display their items for the beneficiaries to choose.

Mr Robert Longom, the project focal person said the project is targeting 1000 households in Bidibidi refugee settlement.

He said 300 beneficiaries are from the host community while the 700 are refugees from the three villages of Yangani, Ariwa and Ombechi in Bidibidi zone five settlement.

"We have overwhelming demand from the people who are not beneficiaries but it is not possible to support a bigger number due to inadequate funding. This is yet the first phase of the project but in the second phase which will start in January next year, we will see what to do," Longom said.

"People do complain of the little seeds but we are looking at uplifting the household income levels in the second phase. The quantity of the inputs will also be increased," Longom promised.

He said each beneficiary was given a voucher worth Shs98,500 and the seeds specified for them in the project were maize, groundnuts, cowpeas, okra, eggplant, and amaranthus commonly known as Doodo.

Mr Taban 20 06 20Mr Taban (2L) and other Red Cross officials hand over a voucher to a beneficiary on Friday. PHOTO BY ROBERT

Mr Simon Peter Lenin, the URCS operations manager for West Nile said the same beneficiaries were supported with inputs in 2019 but the feedback was that the beneficiaries needed to be given a chance to decide on what to take out of the basket Red Cross is giving them.

He said when they discussed the possibility of how to fulfill the demand of the beneficiaries, they came up with the idea of the seed fair so that the beneficiaries make their own choice.

"As URCS, one of the things we emphasize is listening to the cry of our beneficiaries, taking their voices into consideration and use their voices to influence our programming. This is the way our programming is set as URCS," Lenin said.

He noted that they have been using 30 percent and 70 percent mode of getting the beneficiaries but next time, they will have an equal selection of the beneficiaries (50-50).

Mr Azizi Aluma, the Ariwa subcounty chairperson said there is a need for refugees and the host community to engage in agriculture.

"We are trying to educate the refugees and the host community on the benefits of agriculture but the challenge is, there is no water for production. We have water for consumption but water for production is a problem, taking into account the issue of drought that destroys crops," he said.

Aluma appealed to OPM, UNHCR and the implementing partners to construct motorised water schemes to promote agriculture in the area.

Ms Esther Konga, a beneficiary said the support given by Red Cross is a good one but the quantity is not enough to plant the 3 acres of land she has prepared.

"We have inadequate land but some of us only depend on the 30m by 30m piece of land allocated by OPM for settlement which can't support agricultural activities," Mr Paul Abuyi, another beneficiary said

Meanwhile Mr Michael Nabugere, the settlement commandant observed that food rations for the refugees have been cut to 70 per cent per person due to the funding gap caused by Covid-19.

He said when refugees eat less food, crime rate will increase and as partners, they are supposed to boost food production through agriculture.

Mr Yasin Taban, the Yumbe district chairperson urged each household to have a good food security plan.

"If we don't have food in our families, it causes insecurity and that is why we are encouraging our community to cultivate. The population in Yumbe is about a million people including refugees so, if we go for gainful activity of agriculture and sell the produce, we shall earn a lot because there is ready market in Yumbe and beyond," he said.